Amazon.com packages on a UPS truck in Palo Alto, Calif. on Oct. 18, 2010. (Paul Sakuma / Associated Press)

Amazon.com packages on a UPS truck in Palo Alto, Calif. on Oct. 18, 2010. (Paul Sakuma / Associated Press)

by Amy Koss

I count 11 deserted shops at the Eagle Rock mall. The ghosts of their signs appear eerily above their chained doors. With a few other lost souls, I wander past blank kiosks, witnesses to the mall’s dark descent. I think I detect a slight sulfur smell.

In the past, the devil offered endless love or glamorous fame to tempt the weak. But in a world of dating sites and apps, love is only a swipe away and YouTube fame requires no more than a goofy pet. So what would Satan offer Americans today to win our souls?

How about easy consumption?

It’s not ambition he needs to appeal to, but our acquisitiveness and sloth. He can show us a picture of a thing — a book, a bauble, a sweater, a vacuum cleaner — and ask three questions:

“Do you want it?” Even if we don’t click yes, we can scroll past to the next item, and the next, all offered with equal enthusiasm and zero judgement, unlike the cranky, now unemployed sales clerk who used to work at the mall.

“Do you want it cheap? Less than anywhere else? (And no need to actually touch the filthy lucre or do math. I’ll handle that.)”

“Do you want it now? (I’ll leave it right at your door, so you don’t have to acknowledge another soul during the entirety of this transaction.)”

To which we the people have answered, “Yes! Oh, yes!”

And the devil, manifest as Amazon.com, smiles.

So it has come comes to pass that mom & pops and department stores, boutiques and shops, grocery stores and post offices are vanishing in a trail of scorched hoof prints.

Now the retail giants are stumbling to their knees.

They’re offering deals and deeper discounts, closing branches, consolidating staff, trying to fend off the inevitable. We can solemnly recite the roll of the dead, dying and struggling: Macy’s, Sports Authority, Walmart, Kmart, Office Depot, JCPenney, Bebe, Payless Shoe Source, American Eagle, Chicos, Ann Taylor, Rue 21, Gap, Sears, Radio Shack, Game Stop, Staples, BCBG, Men’s Wearhouse, the Limited, Crocs, Guess, Abercrombie & Fitch, Wet Seal… According to the feds, there have been 60,000 retail jobs lost in just the last two months.

Beelzebub’s blood bath began with books, remember? First came the massacre of specialty and small, independent bookstores. Then he smote Borders, Crown, Brentano’s and B. Dalton, followed by the crippling of Barnes & Noble.

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SOURCE: The Los Angeles Times

Amy Koss is the author of “Side Effects” and many other books for teens.